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The Truth About Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday
BY Robert R. Allard
been much confusion and discussion about Divine Mercy Sunday and how it all
relates to Easter, and it is about time that all of the misunderstandings get
Although Divine Mercy Sunday started
out from a revelation that was made by Jesus to St. Faustina, it is now an
official feast in the Catholic Church. Divine Mercy Sunday is not to be
considered part of a private devotion. There are still some things that are
considered devotional that are associated with Divine Mercy, like the chaplet
and the novena — but these devotionals should not be confused with what the
Church has set in place for the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday.
Many have added to the confusion by
suggesting that priests must provide special devotional services for Divine
Mercy Sunday. This had caused many priests to shy away. Mercy Sunday is not a
“party for devotees”; it is in all truthfulness an astonishing “refuge for
sinners.” It is an outstanding, timely gift from God. There’s no doubt about
it: The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has fulfilled every request that
Jesus made, but only because it has seen the hand of God.
The Church has not added anything
new by naming this new feast, but just sort of re-energized what was always
celebrated as a great feast in the early Church. Over the years, the Church had
lost some of the fervor for the octave of Easter. Octaves have always been
associated with the celebration of great feasts. Some of the Jewish feasts in
the Old Testament, such as the feast of Tabernacles, were celebrated for a full
eight days, and the very last day was always the greatest one.
The Gospel of John recalls the
observance of the last day of the feast of Tabernacles in the seventh chapter
(John 7:37-39), and St. John calls it the greatest day: “On the last and
greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts,
let him come to me; let him drink, who believes in me. Scripture has it: ‘From
within him rivers of living water shall flow.’” It is important that every word
in these passages is taken to heart and analyzed very thoroughly.
The first day of an octave and the
last day are considered as the same day. In fact, every day in between the
first and last is part of the feast. Just look at the days of the week between
Easter and the octave of Easter: From Monday through Saturday, they are all
called “Easter,” and each and every one of these days is the highest form of
celebration called a solemnity. On each of those days, the Gloria and the creed
are recited, just like on Sundays. Each is considered a Sunday. Although the
Easter season extends for a full 50 days until Pentecost, the Easter feast
itself is only eight days long, from the Easter Vigil until the evening of that
octave, Divine Mercy Sunday. It is very important that we celebrate Easter
correctly, and that includes celebrating the octave.
Don’t forget that the Gospel that
has always been read on the Sunday after Easter (John 20:19-31) covers the time
from the evening of the Resurrection up until the following Sunday.
The first part of that Gospel
narrates Jesus bestowing on the apostles the power to forgive sins by breathing
on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are
forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The second part of that
Gospel is what happens on the very next Sunday, the octave, when Thomas finally
sees Jesus in that same Upper Room as the rest of the apostles had seen him the
Mercy Sunday is really designed to
get souls back to the practice of their faith. That is why the Catholic Church
has attached a special plenary indulgence to this Sunday and has decreed that
it remain “perpetually” in place. It has also, in that decree, issued a
specific directive to priests entitled “Duties of Priests: Inform Parishioners;
Hear Confessions; Lead Prayers.” These duties are the guidelines for the
correct celebration of the octave, and the Holy See has left no options.
specific duties, which can be seen on the Vatican website, were originally
issued in August 2002 and presented to all bishops. They are all clearly
presented in the last paragraph of that special plenary indulgence and include
the proclamation of that indulgence by all “priests who exercise pastoral
ministry, especially parish priests.” It also asserts that they “should
promptly and generously hear their confessions” and also “lead the prayers
after the Masses” on that day.
is very clear that the Church, moved by the Holy Spirit, has acted compellingly
to insure that everyone has the opportunity to obtain these incredible graces
that are offered on this octave. It has set in place a renewed enthusiasm for
Easter. It is imperative that Easter be celebrated for a full eight days — and
in a solemn way. No longer can we let the Easter-only Catholics walk out of
Church on Easter Sunday without an invitation to come back and celebrate the
There have also been many inquiries
as to using the Divine Mercy image on Mercy Sunday and its permanent
installation in churches. Pope Benedict in his book The
Spirit of the Liturgy wrote of the importance of having such an
image to assist in every liturgy as a sign of hope to lead people to the Second
Coming of Christ. He wrote of the “void” that was caused by the removal of
icons and sacred art from our sanctuaries and the importance of having the images.
celebrating Easter involves correctly celebrating the octave of Easter. It is
only humble obedience to the magisterium that is necessary to complete the job.
There is one more thing that is of
the utmost importance, and it would be a grave injustice to the Lord not to
proclaim it. Jesus said that the feast of mercy would be the last hope of
salvation. These words can be found in the diary of St. Faustina, Divine
Mercy in My Soul, No. 965. If this be true, then everyone must be
told about it, including fallen-away and lapsed Catholics. Proclaim it from the
rooftops, and tell everyone about those special graces on Mercy Sunday!
R. Allard is director of
Apostles of Divine Mercy.